The Florida Gators got the signature win they needed in the SEC Tournament.
But it didn’t come easy for this group of Gators. Florida squaked by #1 seeded LSU with a 76-73 win on Andrew Nembhard’s last second trey.
Florida started slowly with LSU opening with a 5-0 advantage that forced UF head coach Mike White to call an incredibly early timeout. By the first media timeout the Tigers had stretched their lead to 13-5.
Despite being thoroughly dominated for much of the first half, the Gators were still in contention and trailed by only ten after the opening period of play, 35-25.
Florida started the second half as slowly as they started the first, trailing 42-29 with 16:30 left in regulation.
Keyontae Johnson managed a monster alley-oop from Andrew Nembhard that closed the gap to 46-38.
Florida got to within one at 48-47 with 11:33 remaining, but LSU’s Javonte Smart knocked down a 3-pointer to extend the Tigers lead.
The Gators finally took their first lead of the contest on a pair of Jalen Hudson free throws with 6:05 that made it 58-57.
With the score tied and 3:45 to play Keyontae Johnson nailed a three pointer as Kevarrius Hayes was fouled while providing a screen near the top of the circle. LSU’s interim head coach Tony Benford was irate that the shot counted, arguing that the foul was committed prior to the shot (it was), and was T’d up as a result.
KeVaughn Allen made both free throws and Hayes made 1-2 for what was essentially a six point swing and put Florida on top 66-63.
After a pair of free throws, the Tigers decided to press and KeVaughn Allen turned the ball over giving Skylar Mays a free layup for a 67-66 LSU advantage.
Florida turned to Nembhard in the final minutes. Nembhard made a running layup with 2:00 to play and flowed that with an assist on Kevarrius Hayes’ mid-ranfe jumper that put the Gators up 70-67.
The Tigers wouldn’t go down easy though.
Naz Reid made two three-pointers that tied the game in the final minute and set the stage for Nembhard’s heroics.
With 13 seconds on the clock, Nembhard carried the ball up the court and dribbled around before passing to Johnson. Johnson returned the pass to an open Nembhard who connected with one second left on the clock and likely clinching a Florida berth into the NCAA Tournament.
- Andrew Nembhard finished with 20 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds.
- Keyontae Johnson added his second straight double-double (third of the season) with 16 points and 10 boards.
- All five Gators starters finished in double figures scoring.
- Florida shot 26-56 from the field, good for 46%.
- The Gators made 16-26 (62%) from the charity stripe.
Florida will face the winner of the #4 South Carolina and #5 Auburn in the SEC Tournament semifinals on Saturday at 1:00 PM.